by Matthew Rushing
James Swallow’s new eBook, The Stuff of Dreams, sees the return of the Nexus. It’s a semi-sequel to Star Trek: Generations and directly follows David Mack’s recent Cold Equations series. Swallow has written a poignant, heartfelt story that dives into the depths of Jean-Luc Picard, leaving the reader with a better understanding of one of Star Trek’s greatest captains and one of its most fascinating anomalies.
Dreams and Reality
In Swallow’s new Star Trek novella, Picard comes face-to-face with the Nexus one last time. As the Federation worries about the temporal portal that is about to enter Kinshaya space, Picard comes full circle. Through his experience, he will not only understand Soran better, but himself as well.
In this short eBook, Swallow takes the reader on a walk through one of the most important human discussions: the nature of reality. The Nexus offers pure joy, something that is almost tangible and yet, not quite right. In this latest visit, Picard can truly feel the weight of the difference between the stuff of dreams and reality. In his first visit, Picard was still without one of his greatest desires, a family. In his latest trip through this cosmic Neverland , Picard has what was missing in his life for so long, and because of that, the Nexus cannot replace what is so real and wonderful outside its bounds. For Picard, reality is more the dream than the dream itself, and therefore the dream no longer has a hold on him anymore.
In a world of “reality TV” and online avatars, the lesson here is stunning. Picard sums it up when he explains to Beverly why he has chosen the arboretum over a holodeck for a family picnic: “I wanted something real….I’ve grown tired of illusions.” We live in a society that is wrapped up in status and illusions, constantly neglecting the real because our fabrications are “safe.” Picard has seen the ultimate hallucination and knows that for all the pain and hurt, nothing is better than the reality of his family, his crew and the knowledge that “this is where I’m supposed to be.”
This is one of the best Star Trek books in the last few years. It deals with classic motifs and challenges its reader to see beyond dreams and wake up to the joy of reality. Picard is given some wonderful character growth and Swallow leaves readers clamoring to see where the Enterprise is off to next as they explore, inwardly and outwardly, the final frontier. This book is rated 10 out of 10 Nexus dreams.